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The Player Using Pickleball to Help Smash Parkinson’s

The Player Using Pickleball to Help Smash Parkinson’s

  • Getting his diagnosis gave Marcus Woodhouse’s passion for the sport a whole new meaning.

When Marcus Woodhouse, 49, got news of his illness three years ago, he had a burning question for his neurologist: “Can I still play pickleball?” Since discovering the sport as an extension of a love for table tennis, Woodhouse had become an avid player and did not want to envision life without it. His doctor didn’t hesitate. For Woodhouse, one of nearly one million Americans living with Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder, his advice was clear: “Any activity is good activity.”

At the time, Parkinson’s was particularly affecting Woodhouse’s right arm, causing frequent shakiness in his hand, but the pickleball affirmation from the neurologist was a ray of light at an otherwise stressful time. The simplified medical reality of Parkinson’s is that brain cells cease generating a sufficient amount of dopamine, but there have been studies that show exercise can improve quality of life for people with the disorder. “The effects stop being as bad because you’re using activity to manage the symptoms,” Woodhouse says.

HEARTLAND HUB

At the time of his diagnosis, Woodhouse was in the midst of cofounding the Indy Pickleball Club (www.indypickleballclub.com), now the preeminent organization for the sport in Indianapolis. Once a tennis hot spot with national acclaim (host to the Indianapolis Tennis Championships, previously called the RCA Championships, on the ATP tour until 2009), the city was primed to enthusiastically embrace this new sport. “Indianapolis has a lot of people who have switched from tennis to pickleball,” Woodhouse says. “And Indianapolis has tons of athletes to begin with—so many people who play in the NBA and the NFL. This area just loves athletics.”

The club’s growth underscores how diverse a role pickleball can play in people’s lives. “It doesn’t matter if you’re diagnosed with Parkinson’s; you can still play pickleball and you can still have fun,” Woodhouse asserts. “Whether you’re 14 years old or 100, there are other people who will play at your skill level. It brings that competitive element, but also camaraderie.” Woodhouse has helped develop the Indy Pickleball Club’s vision for eventually building their own complex with 16 indoor and 16 outdoor courts. If it’s up to him, Indianapolis is going to be the Midwestern hub for the sport.

PLAYER’S PICKS

Woodhouse, a 4.5 player, competed in more than two dozen pickleball tournaments last year. Here’s what fuels his game.


Breakfast Boost:

Eggs and an English muffin


Warm-Up Ways:

Dinking at the kitchen line, third-shot drops, and driving the ball, “always ending with a fast-hands drill to get me pumped up.”


COURTSIDE SNACK:

Beef jerky and peanut butter pretzels


HYDRATION HELP:

Jigsaw Health Electrolyte Supreme

BIG AMBITIONS

Going forward, Woodhouse would like to see the Indy Pickleball Club increasingly incorporate programming for people with disabilities. His inspiration is Rock Steady Boxing, a nonprofit boxing gym based in Indianapolis that offers workouts for people with Parkinson’s, and where Woodhouse attends fitness boxing classes frequently. He points out that pickleball’s requirement of coordination, balance, and agility can aid people living with Parkinson’s in much the same way the fitness boxing classes do—and pickleball clubs around the country could be the catalysts.

He admits he likes to dream big. “It’d be nice to work with the Michael J. Fox Foundation and host a tournament,” Woodhouse says of the Parkinson’s research organization, whose community members have held pickleball-based fundraisers in the past. “I wish I could have a one-on-one with Michael J. Fox because I think I could convince him.” With Woodhouse’s drive, anything is possible.

PSYCH-UP SONG:

“Purple Rain” by Prince: “If I’m in a slump, I put this on. It will always change the way I play.”


GAME-DAY THREADS:

TMPR Sports T-shirt


TRUSTED SHOE BRANDS:

Nike and Adidas: “I go through a pair every three to four months.”


GO-TO PADDLE:

TMPR Sports Oculus LX Paddle

PLAYER’S PICKS

Woodhouse, a 4.5 player, competed in more than two dozen pickleball tournaments last year. Here’s what fuels his game.


Breakfast Boost:

Eggs and an English muffin


Warm-Up Ways:

Dinking at the kitchen line, third-shot drops, and driving the ball, “always ending with a fast-hands drill to get me pumped up.”


COURTSIDE SNACK:

Beef jerky and peanut butter pretzels


HYDRATION HELP:

Jigsaw Health Electrolyte Supreme


PSYCH-UP SONG:

“Purple Rain” by Prince: “If I’m in a slump, I put this on. It will always change the way I play.”


GAME-DAY THREADS:

TMPR Sports T-shirt


TRUSTED SHOE BRANDS:

Nike and Adidas: “I go through a pair every three to four months.”


GO-TO PADDLE:

TMPR Sports Oculus LX Paddle

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